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Man pleads guilty to stealing two bear cubs from den in Northern California

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A Siskiyou County man pleaded guilty to stealing two-week-old bear cubs from a den in Northern California in 2019, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife said this week.

Cody Setzer, 29, of Yreka took the cubs when they were estimated to be less than 4 weeks, authorities said.

The investigation began in March 2019 when Setzer contacted wildlife officials and claimed he found the boys along Highway 263 north of Yreka.

“A wildlife officer became suspicious of Setzer’s story when no bear tracks or habitat were found at the site where Setzer claimed he found them,” the Department of Fish and Wildlife said in a news release.

The cubs were taken to the department’s Wildlife Health Laboratory in Rancho Cordova, where DNA testing revealed they were likely born in the Sacramento River Canyon in northern Shasta County, nearly 100 miles south of where Setzer said he had found her.

“During the investigation, wildlife officials determined that setters and an employee from a local logging company were retrieving the cubs from a hollow in a tree that had fallen across an access road to a construction site,” the department said.

The worker took officers to the site where they collected evidence from the cave that had been destroyed by the worker and setter, wildlife officials said.

The boys’ mother was never found.

It was unclear what Setzer and his associate, who was not charged with the incident, were planning to do with the boys. But Capt. Patrick Foy of the State Wildlife Agency’s Law Enforcement Branch said their behavior was consistent with incidents of people taking a wild animal like a fawn as a pet.

After a few days, “people realize it’s more than they can handle,” Foy said.

The cubs were eventually turned over to Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care, the youngest ever brought to the facility, officials said, and after they grew old enough to survive in the wild, they were released into their habitat on April 28, 2020 discharged in Shasta County.

Setzer pleaded guilty to possessing a prohibited species and obstructing a peace officer in November, the Department of Fish and Wildlife said this week. Following his guilty pleas in the bear case and another unrelated case, he faces a $2,290 fine, 200 hours of community service and 12 months probation — with suspended hunting and fishing privileges.

An additional 90-day county jail sentence will be suspended upon completion of his parole.

https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-03-18/man-pleads-guilty-to-taking-two-bear-cubs-from-northern-california-den Man pleads guilty to stealing two bear cubs from den in Northern California

Dais Johnston

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